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There are various treatments for cancer these include; surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Your doctor might recommend chemotherapy for several reasons. The goal might be:

  • to cure a specific cancer;
  • to control tumor growth when a cure isn't possible; 
  • to relieve symptoms such as pain;
  • to shrink tumors before surgery or radiation therapy; or
  • to destroy microscopic metastases after tumors are removed surgically. 

How anticancer drugs work

Like normal, healthy cells, cancer cells go through a continuous process of change. Each cell divides into two daughter cells. These cells grow, rest and divide again. The drugs used in chemotherapy are powerful chemicals designed to interrupt this cycle and stop the cells from growing.

Several different types of drugs are used in chemotherapy. Each type kills cells at a different stage of cell's life cycle. Each does its job in a different way.

Antimetabolites attack the cells during the process of division, when they are more easily killed. The antimetabolites imitate normal cell nutrients. The " anti-vitamin " methotrexate, for example, resembles the normal B vitamin, folic acid. The cell consumes the drug- " thinking " it's getting a good meal - and starves to death.

How the drugs are given

  • Intravenous
  • Implanted infusion ports
  • Ambulatory pumps
  • Central nervous system delivery
  • Intraperitoneal
  • Intra-arterial
  • Infusaid pumps

The decision on what route to use depends on several factors, mainly the type of tumor and the drug being used.

Dealing with the side effects

Since fast-growing cells are affected most, there may be some hair loss, sore mouth, nausea and diarrhea and depressed blood counts.

Keep in mind that many people tolerate chemotherapy very well and have very few negative reactions. Your doctor will prescribe medications to help combat the side-effect you may encounter.

Learn more about Chemotherapy